Union ballot could lead to strike by First Glasgow bus drivers

Unite the Union has announced its intention to ballot bus drivers for industrial action.
Unite the Union has announced its intention to ballot bus drivers for industrial action.

Bus passengers in Glasgow and East Renfrewshire could face travel disruption if a union’s intended ballot leads to a walk out.

Unite the Union has officially informed First Glasgow that it intends to ballot drivers for industrial action, including strikes.

It says the move is to protect public safety, claiming First Glasgow has registered service changes beginning in October, which will result in significant cuts in running times and recovery times for drivers.

However, Andrew Jarvis, managing director of First Bus in Scotland, stressed that nothing as yet had been registered with the Traffic Commissioner’s office and the company was “still very much in the consultation phase of the proposed network changes that Unite have raised concerns over”.

Mr Jarvis said: “We are disappointed that our trade union colleagues have decided to go public with their concerns given we are at an early stage in the process.”

Unite believes the introduction of the changes will be a direct threat to public safety and are motivated by a drive to further increase profits.

It says this is the first time that no consultation has taken place, and that this could only be viewed as a “suspicious development”.

In addition, Unite says it believes the changes will result in the slashing of running times, leading to a reduction of buses available to the public.

Unite’s consultative ballot will take place during September.

The union says it anticipates that “drivers will support Unite’s continued stance of supporting members, supporting public services and supporting those most vulnerable in our communities”.

Mick Dowds, Unite’s National Convenor, said: “Unite members are furious that at a time when public safety is paramount and after Unite welcomed the Speed Awareness Agreement alongside supporting other health and safety initiatives such as ‘Destressing the Driver’, First Glasgow is blatantly scurrying around with a new set of rosters. This will directly impact on drivers’ wellbeing and could have a catastrophic effect on passengers and the public.

“First Group announced some time ago that it intended to sell its passenger operations including its flagship First Glasgow company.

“This latest development highlights exactly why Unite has been calling on local authorities such as Glasgow to bring passenger services back into public and municipal ownership.

“This is essential to ensure services meet the needs of communities and those most vulnerable in society rather than having diminished services in the chase for profit.”

However, Mr Jarvis responded by saying that the bus company was striving to make things better for the customer by making bus travel simple, speeding up bus boarding times, reducing journey times wherever possible, using data to make better operational decisions and developing a customer relationship as opposed to a transactional one.

“As part of this process, we are using data to assess our network performance across a number of areas including running time,” he said.

“These proposals will be fully reviewed and tested as is our standard practice in this scenario and nothing as yet is set in stone.

“We would always seek the input of our trade union colleagues and staff in this scenario to ensure their feedback is taken into account.

“The safety of our staff, customers and other road users are our number one priority and this is something we will never compromise on.

“It is disappointing that our trade union colleagues have taken this decision at such an early stage in the process and we remain willing to discuss further to address their concerns.”